Hit the Trail with Landmark: A Day at Niagara Falls State Park

A Day at Niagara Falls State Park

If America’s first state park isn’t on your bucket list, it’s time to add it! It's easy to underestimate Niagara Falls' beauty and the sheer power of its three natural waterfalls, but visiting is genuinely unforgettable.

We’re sharing our favorite non-touristy things to do at Niagara Falls. While it may seem like there’s not much to do beyond the classic Maid of the Mist boat ride or shopping, the Niagara region in upstate New York and southern Ontario is filled with hikes, wineries, and hidden views off the beaten path.

Parking at The Falls

When you visit, you’ll have multiple parking options. The state park has four lots, which are $10 per day and located just outside scenic viewpoints. You can find detailed entrance areas and maps here.

There are also city parking lots and metered street parking within a five-minute walk of the park entrances. These lots are a great option when the official park lots are full on busy summer days. While the cost of city lots varies, they are within $20 per day. Plus, entrance to the park is free 365 days a year!

Wander among the Falls

Niagara Falls State Park is home to three stunning natural waterfalls: American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls. Visiting is like stepping back in time to the end of the Ice Age when melting glaciers carved paths across the landscape. These vast torrents of water rushed across the Niagara Escarpment in northern New York and southern Canada, forming the Great Lakes and, eventually, the famous Niagara Falls. 

The park sits on 400 acres of lush land, and you can meander for hours. You may not know that Frederick Law Olmsted, the architect of Central Park, designed beautiful walkways and gardens throughout the park. This makes it a great place to wander and picnic. In the bustle to catch boat rides and exhibits, many visitors miss out on the peaceful beauty of the park itself.

You can also purchase a scenic trolley ticket for $3. This trolley will take you on a circular route that stops at the major attractions throughout the park.

Feel the Mist on Your Face

If you want an alternative to the Maid of the Mist boat ride, we recommend Cave of the Winds on the USA side of the Falls. Cave of the Winds is popular but offers more adventure than the other busy attractions. You’ll feel the mist on your face, get a little (or a lot!) drenched, and often see a rainbow over the Falls.

Tickets to the Cave of Winds are $21 for adults and can be purchased on Goat Island (one of the Scenic Trolley stops.) Entry is timed and fills up quickly, so we recommend making this your first stop of the day.

Cave of the Winds

Hiking to the Great Gorge Scenic Overlook

You might be surprised by the many hiking trails surrounding the Falls on both the US and Canadian sides. You’ll have dozens to choose from, but we recommend the Great Gorge Scenic Overlook on the US side.

To start your hike, stop by the Niagara Gorge Trailhead Center. You can take a guided tour or explore the trail on your own. Because cell reception is limited in these areas, we recommend grabbing a map or downloading one on your phone here.

This one-mile beginner-level hike starts at the historic Schoellkopf Power Plant Ruins and is part of Niagara Gorge State Park. We love this trail because it includes gorgeous vistas that can be reached without climbing or special gear.

Schoellkopf Power Plant Ruins Site

Explore Canada’s Niagara Glen Nature Reserve

Niagara Falls is unique because it is shared by the US and Canada. If you have your passport and are up for a Canadian adventure, you’ll love exploring Niagara Glen. Located deep in the Great Gorge, you’ll discover stairways leading to a 2.5-mile path that winds through the Carolinian Forest. This trail overlooks the fierce Niagara River and the astounding Niagara Whirlpool.

Assuming you start your day on the USA side of the Falls, you’ll need to take a short drive through Canadian customs to reach the Glen. To reach the Glen, take I-190 west to Canada and enter Ontario via the Lewiston-Queenston bridge. Then, drive to the Niagara Glen Nature Center, where you can park for $1 USD. Access to the Nature Reserve is free to all visitors, but it is sometimes closed due to weather or trail maintenance. Be sure to check the Niagara Parks website before you go.

Wine on the Lake

Once in Ontario, you won’t want to pass up the region’s renowned ice wine made from naturally frozen grapes. Our favorite vineyard is Inniskillin, which is located a short drive from Niagara Falls in the quaint town of Niagara on the Lake.

Inniskillin put Canada’s wines on the map and is the oldest estate winery in the country. Their tasting room is nestled among vineyards, shops, and historic buildings. The winery closes at 5:00 p.m., so we recommend stopping by for an evening tasting and walking the peaceful streets of Niagara on the Lake as the sun sets.


We hope you stand under the Falls with mist on your face soon. Niagara Falls is unlike any state park and one of the most memorable trips in North America!

Niagara Falls Unisex Short Sleeve Tee
Niagara Falls Poster

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